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He was avaricious, and had a large family. Treating him with beer,
Zaklika learned from him which way the windows of the Countess's rooms
looked out, and also that the iron door of the tower, of which the
steward had the key, led to a large empty hall. Zaklika told him he was
very fond of old buildings; but to this the steward made no answer.
Another day they were talking about the Countess, and Zaklika tried to
arouse pity for her in the steward. They looked at one another - the
steward was silent again.

"The Countess," said Zaklika, "has still many friends at Court, and
some of them think that she will return to the King's favour. I would
not be surprised if some of them appeared here one day and offered you
a handsome sum of money for a moment's conversation with her."

The steward muttered something.

"What would you do in that case?" asked Zaklika.

"It would be a devilish temptation," answered the steward. "I would do
as Luther did, I would throw the inkstand at the devil!"

But he smiled.

"Suppose someone should offer you thirty thalers?" asked Zaklika.

"For thirty thalers they would hang me," laughed the steward.

"But it is not a crime to let the Countess talk for a few minutes with
a friend. However," continued Zaklika, "we are talking just in fun; but
I am sure just the same that someone would give you even fifty
thalers."

The steward looked at him with wide-open eyes and stroked his beard.
The thought of getting fifty thalers intoxicated him.

"If you know someone who would give me fifty thalers, then tell him to
come and see me," answered the German.

"Here he is," answered Zaklika.

"I thought so."

"Conduct me to the empty hall when the women are not with the Countess;
I shall not be long with her."

"Were it not for the women everything could be done very easily.
Unfortunately, they are with the Countess by turns."

"Tell your wife to invite them."

"No, a woman should not know about anything."

"Yes," said Zaklika; "but she can invite them without knowing why."

The consultation lasted quite a while, and they agreed that at the next
opportunity the steward should let Zaklika see the Countess.

One day, as she was in her chamber, she heard a knocking at the iron
door of the tower. With throbbing heart she rushed there and knocked at
it too. At that moment the door opened and Zaklika appeared.

"I have only time to tell you that I am in the vicinity, and that I
will do anything to come to your rescue."

"Help me to escape!" said Cosel.

"It is impossible just now," said Zaklika; "at least it requires a
great deal of time. You must rely upon me - I will do my best. Drop a
cord from the window in the tower, and I will attach a paper with the
news to it, for it will be impossible for us to see one another."

The steward began to grow impatient. Zaklika slipped into the
Countess's hand a bag of money, and whispered, -

"You must bribe one of the servants. I am at the inn called 'The Golden
Horse Shoe.'"

The door was shut, for the women might come at any moment, but the
Countess grew hopeful.

Zaklika, that poor servant, on whom she hardly deigned to look from the
height of her majesty, had not betrayed her.

The steward took the fifty thalers with unconcealed joy. He was glad of
the opportunity of making some money, and from that time it was he that
ran after Zaklika, who had already conceived a plan to free the
Countess.

The next day the steward showed him the castle, and during this visit
Zaklika noticed that there was a door in the wall near the road; it was
encumbered with stones, but they could easily be cleared out.

But it was not enough to leave the castle, it was necessary to have the
means of gaining the frontier and finding a hiding-place that could not
be easily discovered by Augustus' spies. Zaklika thought that if he
could cross Silesia and reach Poland, they could hide there, for he
knew that the Saxon, as they called Augustus in Poland, had many
enemies.

To purchase horses and hire people for the flight was a difficult task
in Saxony, where the King had many spies.

The next day Zaklika attached a paper to a string, telling the Countess
that he was going away to make preparations for her escape. Before
going away, he had a conversation with the steward, hinting to him that
there might come an opportunity for him to earn not fifty, but a
thousand thalers.

"With a thousand thalers you could go quietly into the Rhine provinces
and live there with your family in your own house."

The old man did not say a word, only nodded.

Having drunk lots of beer with the soldiers in saying farewell, he told
them he would come back for the skins, and that he was going to
Dresden.

After his departure, Cosel was in a fever, waiting for news. Every day
she rushed to the window and drew up the string. She did not think of
difficulties; it seemed to her that the man ought to free her
immediately when she had told him to do so. In the meantime, she
decided to bribe one of the servants.

Both of them were gloomy and unfriendly, but the younger was more
accessible. She would talk a few words at least with her every day.
Cosel was in the habit of treating every one in a queenly manner and
assuring them of her favour. She was always majestic, thinking that she
was the King's wife. But little by little she assumed a more gentle
manner with the young servant Madeleine. She could not, however, make
her friendly till she began to complain of the older one. The money
acted still better, but a month passed before she could count upon her.

Zaklika had not returned. He could not act quickly, for this reason,
that he was known in Dresden, and the purchase by him of a carriage and
horses would arouse suspicion. Therefore a great amount of cunning was
necessary to purchase what he needed without attracting attention.
Through the Wend he made some acquaintances in Budzishyne, and there he
worked out his plans.

It took a good deal of time, however, and the autumn passed by and
winter came, and it was the worst time of the year for flight. Zaklika
went to Nossen in order to ask Cosel to be patient until the spring.
The steward was paid to open the door, at which Madeleine kept watch,
and they were able to talk freely and come to an agreement that they
would try to fly in the spring. There was no doubt that the steward,
tempted by the money, would give in.

The winter was long, and such kind of enterprises, when they drag, are
apt to furnish a chance for repentance on the part of those who help to
accomplish them. The steward, being tipsy on one occasion, said
something about it to his wife; the rest she got out of him. The shrewd
woman thought that when one betrays it is better to betray everybody,
and take all possible benefit out of it. According to her opinion they
should agree to take the money from Zaklika, and then communicate the
plan to the authorities in order not to lose their position, and thus
not be obliged to fly into another country.

The steward smiled at the shrewd idea of his cunning wife. They awaited
the spring.

The Countess was so sure of Madeleine that she told her all about it,
and asked her to go with her. The woman became frightened at the idea.
She wrestled with herself. Under the pretext of seeing her family, she
asked permission to go to Dresden. She had a sister in the service of
Countess Denhoff - she went to see her. The women consulted each other
and agreed that it would be best to tell the Countess's mother of the
plans of Cosel, for which act they were sure to be well rewarded.

The fear of the women may be imagined when they learned that Cosel
could escape. Löwendahl was called up at once. The first step was to
arrest both women. The same day a double guard of soldiers went to
Nossen to replace those that were there. They doubled the sentries,
arrested the steward, and led him in chains to Dresden.

During the night sentries were placed under the windows. In the morning
Cosel found in the anteroom an unknown officer, who, accompanied by an
official, searched all her things and inspected the doors and locks.

She was angry, but did not dare to ask any questions, being afraid that
Zaklika might be detected and arrested. Happily nobody here knew him by
his name, for he had taken precautions to assume another.

They found no proofs of the proposed escape, for she had destroyed the
paper written by Zaklika; but from that time life in Nossen became
unbearable. New servants were sent, who treated the Countess with great
severity. She defended herself only with pride and silence.

When the official had left the room, the young officer, having a more
tender heart than the others, said to her, -

"I am sure the Countess does not remember a lad whom she has seen many
times as the King's page. I am here on a sad duty, and I came here only
to spare you some suffering if I can. You must try not to make your
position worse."

Cosel looked at him proudly.

"If you wish to prove to me your sympathy," she said, "tell me then
what they have discovered and how."

"I do not know the details," said the officer. "The orders were given
by Marshal Löwendahl. They have changed the garrison and the servants;
the steward of the castle is arrested."

"And who besides?"

"Nobody else, besides the servants, I believe," answered the officer.
"I will come to see you every day. I shall be very severe in the
presence of the servants, but I will do anything to please you."

He saluted and went off.

A few days passed by in fear and uncertainty. Zaklika, having learned
in Dresden that the plan of escape was discovered, kept quiet, waiting
to see if they would try to arrest him. He understood that he could not
show himself near Nossen, and in the meantime he felt it would relieve
the Countess if she knew he was still free and that she could count on
him.

In consequence he dressed as a beggar and stole at nights to the
castle. During the day, lying in the thickets, he noticed that the
string was not at the window, and that a sentry was beneath it.
Communication with the Countess was therefore very difficult, and he
racked his brains how he could do it. Wandering through the country,
notwithstanding the snow and cold, he met a pedlar named Trene selling
various wares for Christmas. He had a small van which he used to draw
to an inn, to which the women came to make their purchases, while to
the houses of the richer people he carried the goods himself.

Zaklika had known this pedlar in Dresden. He stopped him and reminded
him that he used to make purchases from him at the Wend's house.

"In Nossen," said Zaklika, "you can do good business, for in the castle
the Countess Cosel is imprisoned. I am sure she will purchase some
presents for the servants."

The pedlar's eyes sparkled.

"Thank you for the advice," said he. "I never should have thought of
it."

"When you are there," said Zaklika, "remember me to her, for I was in
her service formerly."

"What shall I tell her?" asked the pedlar.

"Tell her that her servant who used to break horseshoes is free, and
wanders throughout God's world. Where are you going from Nossen?" asked
Zaklika.

"I think home, for Christmas is not far off, and I would like to spend
it with my family."

"Then perhaps we shall meet on the road."

The pedlar, like all sellers when it is a question of gain, knew how to
act. When he came to the town he went straight to the castle. The
soldiers wanted to drive him away; but he raised such a din that the
officer came out. He was more indulgent, and sent to the Countess,
asking her whether she would admit a pedlar. For distraction's sake
Cosel consented.

The modest wares of the poor pedlar did not satisfy her refined taste,
and she was looking contemptuously at them, when Herr Trene whispered
to her, -

"I was asked to tell you that your faithful servant, the
horseshoe-breaker, is in good health, and wanders free through God's
world."

"Who told you this?" asked Cosel.

"He himself," answered Trene. "I met him in the neighbourhood."

When the Countess had heard those words she purchased a lot from him,
and the pedlar was surprised at his good luck. He left the castle
happy. He also did good business in the inn, and was obliged to stay
overnight. The next day he met Zaklika on the road to Dresden. He
greeted him cordially.

"Did you tell her about me?" asked the Pole.

"Yes," answered Trene, "and evidently the Countess was pleased. I did
good business. I thank you."

In the meantime the prisoners were questioned in Dresden. The steward
was intelligent enough not to avow anything whatever, and they released
him; but he lost his position. The women were released too, but not
rewarded.

The King ordered that Cosel should be watched carefully. He knew her
too well, and was aware that she could be dangerous. When he learned of
the plan for escape, he ordered Stolpen Castle to be prepared for her.
It was a stronghold, built on basalt rock; the same which Cosel had
once visited with the King, and it was while riding there that she met
the Slav woman, Mlawa, who foretold her future.

At once orders were sent to Stolpen to furnish the St. John's tower, in
which the Bishop of Meissen used to imprison refractory priests.
Augustus was offended and angry. The unconquered will of a woman mocked
his might; a woman dared to ask him to keep his promise, and accuse him
of breach of faith. It was unpardonable daring; and whoever drew the
lord's anger upon himself, for him there was no mercy.

Two days before Christmas there was a great stir in Nossen Castle.
There was sent from Dresden another detachment of soldiers and a
carriage, with the King's order to transport Cosel to Stolpen.

The surprised officer did not dare to enter the Countess's room with
the new order, which announced to her a still harder lot.

Cosel, hearing an unaccustomed noise, rushed to the door. She still
hoped at times that Augustus, whom she had not ceased to love, would
have pity on her, and she thought that as a Christmas present he had
granted her freedom. She stood trembling when an official entered and
bowed to her profoundly. The apparition of the scribbler was the worse
message for her. He was holding a paper in one hand, spectacles in the
other; he was trembling too.

"What do you wish?" asked Cosel.

"I have brought an order signed by His Majesty the King, who has kindly
designated Countess Cosel Stolpen Castle as her place of abode."

The Countess rushed screaming towards the wall as though she would tear
it down. The servants tried to hold her, but she pushed them away
vigorously with cries and moans. The official stood by as if turned to
stone.

They were obliged to conduct her by force to the carriage, in which she
was taken to Stolpen, and lodged in St. John's and Donat's towers, on
the 25th of December, 1716.




CHAPTER XXIV.


Old Stolpen Castle was then in a half-ruined condition. The summits of
its towers had been destroyed by lightning, and the old building would
hardly shelter a small garrison. The commandant of the castle, Johan
Friederich von Wehlen, occupied one of the uncomfortable towers; the
other, called Johannisturm, was destined for the unfortunate favourite
of Augustus.

The former inhabitant of luxurious palaces was now obliged to be
satisfied with two rooms, one of which was intended as the kitchen, the
second for the Countess herself.

When she looked round this bare and dreary room, lighted by small
windows, she gave way to despair, and continued to weep so bitterly
that they were obliged to watch her continually. Her guards and
servants, specially chosen that they could not be bribed, stood
motionless at the sight of such an outburst of grief.

Wehlen, an old soldier, who never made war against women, lost his head
and patience. It was a hard thing for him to be severe on this
unfortunate, but still beautiful woman. The first day of Christmastide,
celebrated with such solemnity throughout the world, was spoiled for
him by the scene of despair. The sentries walking under the walls were
afraid of the crying and screaming of that unfortunate lady.

She spent the whole night in this way, till finally she fell upon the
bed, half-dead from exhaustion. The women whispered that she would die.
The third day Cosel rushed from the bed and asked for some paper; she
wanted to write to the King.

They had foreseen this wish, and the order was for all her letters to
be sent to Löwendahl. Augustus had strictly forbidden any communication
to be brought him from Cosel, and ordered her correspondence to be
burned; but she was not forbidden to write and to have some hope. Cosel
still believed in Augustus' heart.

When the first outburst of despair had passed, she looked around and
recognized the walls which had frightened her so much when she visited
them with the King. From the windows she could see the thick high walls
surrounding the castle, and in the distance the blue mountains covered
with woods, bare hills, and the country which looked as if it were
uninhabited.

This made her the prey to solitude, reminiscences, watching the
soldiers, harassing the servants who were at the same time her guards
and executioners.

Wehlen had received the strictest orders to watch her carefully, a
responsibility which in those days might cost him his own life. Those
who wrote the instructions, it is true, had recommended politeness
towards the woman; but the watchfulness must be so strict as to destroy
all hope of flight. At first glance such a thing as flight seemed
impossible. The castle was surrounded by high walls; the St. John's
tower was strong, and it had been lighted by so many windows that the
sentries walking beneath them could see what the prisoner was doing.
Two courtyards had to be crossed before the tower could be reached.

At the gateway were sentries; the castle was on a high mount dominating
the country, every one approaching it could be seen.

There was nobody except the commandant, two officers, a handful of
soldiers, and the Countess's servants in the castle. Nobody could enter
it without the commandant's special permission, and the gates were
always shut.

Old Von Wehlen, who had never seen the Countess, and concluded that the
King did not care for her because she was old, was amazed when he set
eyes on her for the first time. Cosel was then thirty-six years of age,
and God had granted her eternal beauty and strength. Her face bore no
traces of suffering, and perhaps she was never more charming than then.
The brightness of her eyes, the freshness of her complexion, her
majestic figure, and statuesque shape, made those who looked at her
wonder. In cynical disdain, and as if sneering at her present position,
Cosel assumed the manners and speech of a queen. She gave her orders,
and in her voice there was pride in proportion to her misfortune.

The days were long, weary and monotonous. Cosel filled them with
memories and sometimes with hope. She cursed Augustus' cruelty, but she
could not understand how the one who had loved her so tenderly could
become such a terrible executioner.

The letters that she wrote became by habit a necessity. By the silence
she knew that it was in vain, but at the same time she felt better when
she had committed her thoughts to paper, which could be only scorn for
other people.

When they had packed up her things in Nossen, some one had picked up
the old Bible, and the Countess was constantly reading its pages, in
which so many sorrows are expressed. Those stray leaves aroused in her
the desire to read the whole book. She sent to the commandant to buy a
Bible for her. He asked permission from Dresden; they ordered her
desire to be gratified; and from that time the Bible was constantly on
her table. In reading it she found, if not consolation, at least
forgetfulness. From it she learned that for thousands of years life had
been constant torture.

Thus she found the spring! The spring, which awakes everything to life,
was only going to prolong her sufferings. The swallows came to the old
nests to repair them again; the trees began to open their buds towards
the sun. Over the earth there blew a warm air, mingled with the scent
of flowers. Even around the castle some life appeared; the ploughmen
went freely to the fields - she alone could not move. Cosel used to stay
at the window for hours deep in thought, and did not notice that a
soldier, astonished at her beauty, would often look at her, and ask
himself what this angel-like woman could have done to merit
imprisonment. Old Von Wehlen, smoking his pipe on the ramparts, looked
also at her windows, and his thoughts were bitter; his heart heaved,
for he felt that he loved his lord Friederich Augustus less.

He pitied her. The space in which she could walk consisted of a small
room in the tower, which the sun could not warm.

At the foot of the St. John's tower there was a piece of land,
surrounded by the wall of the fortress - enough space for a comfortable
grave. In that corner there grew wormwood, wild thyme and wild pinks.
Wehlen thought it could be turned into a little garden; but to make the
garden, permission would be necessary, for it would make it pleasanter,
and to show pity for the rebellious woman would mean to make her
bolder. Consequently he made a garden for himself, thinking that the
Countess would at least look on the flowers.

Cosel looked from the window, and noticing that they were digging, she
withdrew, thinking that they were making a grave. Only when, after some
time, she perceived some flowers there, she smiled at them.

It seemed to her that if, instead of sitting on the stones, she could
rest on the earth, she would revive. The flowers could be her
confidants and companions; but considering herself a queen, she could
not ask for it - she preferred to suffer.

At last, considering that she could not escape from it, old Wehlen told
the servant to tell the Countess that she could go there. And when one
morning she went down to see her garden, the air seemed to intoxicate
her; she was obliged to lean for a while against the wall.

From that time she used to spend whole days in the garden, taking care
of the flowers, which she planted herself then.

Thus passed the spring and summer without any change or hope. There was
no answer to her letters; nobody came to see her. Out of an immense
fortune taken from her, they paid her about three thousand thalers,
which she could use as she pleased; but the commandant controlled all
her expenses, and she could not transact any business without his
knowledge.

Since coming to Stolpen she had been waiting for Zaklika; but month
after month passed, and there was no news from him. Once, however, a
Jew pedlar, who used to bring her different things, whispered to her
that the one who used to break the horseshoes was still alive, and that
she should see him. Those few words were sufficient to awaken in her a
slumbering hope.

In the meantime Zaklika was working constantly. His plans of
facilitating the escape of the Countess from Nossen being ruined, he
was obliged to begin anew. He knew that Cosel was imprisoned in
Stolpen.

This cruelty they tried to justify by spreading reports that Cosel,
when in Berlin, had tried to plot against the King's life, that she had
threatened to kill him, that she was mad, and called herself a queen.
And they ended in whispers that Augustus was ashamed of the levity with
which he had given her a promise of marriage although the Queen was
living. That promise, notwithstanding all efforts, they could not find
or get back. It was the first time that Augustus had acted with such
cruelty, and it frightened even the Countess Denhoff, although she
could not flatter herself that she was much loved by the King.

It was true that her court was quite brilliant, but her following had
no political weight. Even those who had helped her to rise, in order to
get rid of Cosel, kept away from her. Watzdorf alone, who thought
through her to overthrow Flemming, was attached to her, and served her
by asking the King for considerable sums of money, which she squandered
lavishly, sometimes spending 10,000 thalers on a ball. She was then
already not counting on the King's long-continued favours, and she
looked after Bosenval and the young Lubomirski, who seemed to be fond
of her.

Augustus' cold and sometimes cruel treatment of his best favourite
warned the others to be armed against the caprices of their lord,
who could take everything from them. Thus Hoym, the Countess Cosel's


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